Former Chicago Bulls star Michael Jordan is only the best player to ever grace the hardwood, although recent arguments might suggest otherwise. The six-time NBA champion was the most offensive weapon in the NBA for most of his career – his time as a Washington Wizard obviously not included.
While His Airness is an idol to a great many fans, even years after his retirement, he was also known for being a bit of an asshole; and that’s just putting it mildly. Jordan was just that competitive, and would do or say whatever it took to win. His Hall of Fame speech famously underpinned just how much of a mean character he could be. Hell, even his kids got a dose of it.
Many people have crossed paths with the ex-No. 23 over the years, and some will tell you that he’s a really swell guy. They’re likely to be people he liked, though, as those he didn’t will have some really awful and possibly shameful stories detailing their unfortunate experiences with the now Charlotte Hornets owner.
Below is a list of eight people His Airness held some fondness for, as well as seven he probably wouldn’t piss on fire to save.
15 Hated - Jerry Krause
Jerry Krause was General Manager of the Chicago Bulls from 1985 -2003, and is regarded by many as one of the key factors in the team’s success during the Jordan and Phil Jackson era. But for many reasons, he did not see eye to eye with his superstar.
Jordan was in direct opposition of Krause trading his favorite teammate Charles Oakley for Bill Cartwright. The center, though, turned out to be a stellar acquisition, helping the Bulls to three championships, forcing Jordan to admit that Krause was right later on.
“There were trades he wanted us to make and they were not good,” Krause once said of Jordan. “Michael’s just not a good judge of talent. He argued, for one example, against the trade for Bill Cartwright, and later he said that without Bill we don’t win the championships. He said it, but grudgingly.”
Explaining his eternal feuding with His Airness, Krause said: “I’m the only one who has told him no. This kid has had his butt kissed by everyone in the world except his parents and me. My goal is not to be his friend. My goal is to win titles.”
Krause sadly passed away in March this year at the age of 77 after a long battle with health issues.
14 Loved - Steve Kerr
Steve Kerr is a legend in his own right, having won five rings as a player and two as a coach. He once found out just how ugly things can get when one disagrees with Jordan, yet the pair would grow to share a great bond, despite MJ landing one square in his face during an argument.
“I disagreed with him one time, I think he punched me in the face,” the Golden State Warriors coach said with a laugh during an interview on the Dan Patrick Show.
“It was one of the best things that ever happened for me, I needed to stand up and go back at him, I think I earned some respect. But we have a great relationship ever since… you gotta prove it and then once you prove it, you’re fine.”
13 Hated – Metta World Peace
You’re probably going to hate anyone who breaks your ribs right? Well that’s exactly what Metta World Peace did to Jordan during a pick-up game in 2001. He was still Ron Artest back then, so it’s probably just Artest Jordan hates. But then again, it was purely accidental.
“We was in Chicago, in the summertime, playing pickup basketball,” World Peace explained. “He scored every single time, and I got tired of him scoring.
“So he was holding me, and I knew if I let him touch the ball, he’s going to score, so I cannot let him touch it. So he was holding me, and I moved his arm out of the way, and I hit him in the ribs by mistake. And that was, like, one of the worst days of my life as a basketball player.”
Jordan being Jordan, though, ended the game with a jumper before going off to check on his injury.
“Jordan’s crazy,” Artest continued. “I hit him in the ribs, he holds his ribs, he takes about five seconds, and it’s his ball. He ends the game on a jumper, and then he walks off.
“That’s Michael Jordan, man.”
12 Loved - Charles Oakley
Well his name was bound to come up in the liked category as it’s been featured quite a bit already. Charles Oakley was one of Jordan’s most liked teammates; and as mentioned before, MJ was left very disgruntled when the Bulls traded his chum to New York for Bill Cartwright in 1988.
Oakley would ultimately return to Chicago in 2001, but by then, His Airness was already enjoying his second retirement. They would play together again, though, as he would leave the windy city and move to Washington to team up with Jordan. Given their friendship, it’s not hard to imagine MJ being the one who made it happen due to his position as the Wizards’ part owner and President of basketball operations.
11 Hated – Chamillionaire (Not a Peer, Obviously)
Anyone would probably be thrilled to take a photo with rapper Chamillionaire, but not Jordan. Chamillionaire met up with the former No.23 at the latter’s party after a Reggie Bush charity auction back in 2009, having just paid $7,000 for a Jordan jersey at said auction. However, upon requesting a photo with his idol, he was met with a shocking reply.
“I ain’t taking pictures with no n***a,” Jordan was said to have responded. The obviously shaken Chamillionaire tried explaining that he had just paid a hefty sum for a jersey, only to be asked to buy another one for more than twice the price. “You know what, I tell you what, you pay $15,000 right now for a jersey from me and I’ll take a picture with you.”
Paul Pierce, who was part of the group of people that Jordan was hanging with at the time, asked His Airness to chill out, also letting him know who Chamillionaire was. However, his plea fell on deaf ears, as Jordan would let the group know that he didn’t ‘give a f***.”
Nike and Jordan later tried fixing things by sending jerseys and shoes to the rapper, but he declined the peace offering with a blunt ‘No’.
10 Loved - Phil Jackson
Phil Jackson has had the luxury of coaching some of the biggest stars to ever grace the NBA, a fact predicated by the 11 rings he’s won as a coach. He had Jordan and Pippen in Chicago, as well as Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal in Los Angeles, and while many will argue that Bryant was a better player than Jordan, the former coach ranks Jordan as the top gun.
"One of the biggest differences between the two stars from my perspective was Michael's superior skills as a leader," Jackson wrote in his book Eleven Rings. "Though at times he could be hard on his teammates, Michael was masterful at controlling the emotional climate of the team with the power of his presence.
“Kobe had a long way to go before he could make that claim. He talked a good game, but he'd yet to experience the cold truth of leadership in his bones, as Michael had."
The respect in the relationship between MJ and Phil was mutual, and they’ve maintained it since going separate ways. In fact, it was Jordan – on Phil’s request - who helped smooth the situation between Oakley and the New York Knicks after the ex-forward got banned from Madison Square Garden for fighting with members of security.
9 Hated - Kwame Brown
This bit seems to give credence to the above statement in which Jerry Krause claimed that Jordan was a bad judge of talent. While acting as the Washington Wizards’ president of basketball operations in 2001, he brought in Kwame Brown as the first selection of the draft that year, making him the first player out of high school to be recruited as the top pick.
Brown’s NBA career proved an unmitigated failure, however, and Jordan’s awe of him didn’t last very long as he thought the center to be soft and lazy. His Airness is reported to have nearly brought Brown to tears during a training session, swearing at him profusely and even using homophobic slurs.
Brown has since denied those reports, but it’s not hard to believe such a thing, is it?
8 Loved – Dean Smith
One would think that Phil Jackson was Mike’s favorite coach, but one would be dead wrong for thinking that. Legendary college coach Dean Smith takes the top spot in that regard.
Jordan credits Smith for shaping him into the star he turned out to be, while claiming that Jackson was only lucky to have gotten a player moulded by the former North Carolina head coach.
Smith was loved by all of his players, and made all of them feel like family. Even in death, he managed to put a smile on their faces by treating them to one last night out. After his passing at the age of 83 in 2015, it was revealed that Smith had willed $200 to all of the players he coached during his 36-year spell at North Carolina. “Enjoy a dinner out compliments of coach Dean Smith,” an attached letter read.
Jordan meanwhile, puts Smith right up there with his parents. “Other than my parents, no one had a bigger influence on my life than Coach Smith,” he declared in a statement following his mentor’s death. “He was more than a coach — he was my mentor, my teacher, my second father."
7 Hated - Clifton Herring
Clifton Herring is the coach who infamously cut Jordan out of his high school team. Well Jordan makes it seem that way, but that’s not exactly happened. Apparently, Herring was tasked with making two lists on the day in question, one for the Varsity squad and the other for the Jayvee (junior varsity) team. Jordan’s name did not make it to the varsity list because he was only 5ft10 at the time and Herring desperately needed height in the side.
He did, however, make it on the JV team. Herring was very impressed with Jordan’s tireless effort if anything, and was said to believe that the player would have a better opportunity, minute-wise, if he played for the second group for a while.
Well, we all know how that turned out. Jordan became an absolute star with all the game time afforded, while Herring has been living the rest of his life as ‘the coach who cut Michael Jordan’, despite having made a great decision in putting him in the right place to develop.
His Airness kept rubbing it in, though, even having a quick go at him whilst giving his Hall of Fame speech.
6 Loved - Scottie Pippen
MJ didn’t have much of a choice with the legendary Scottie Pippen. He never played with a better player in all of his career, and certainly wouldn’t have won any of his six rings without the former forward. Despite picking on Pippen when he joined the Bulls in 1987 and making his life a living hell - solely for the purpose of making him better – their relationship flourished both on and off the court. Pippen was actually one of the few players Jordan let inside his house.
“I like having Scottie with me at the house,” he told reporters after returning from his first retirement. “We work out and talk, and he tells me all kinds of things. A lot of personal things. Scottie’s a very thoughtful guy, if he trusts you, and we really trust each other.”
Pippen would also give his ex-teammate the honor of introducing him into the Hall of Fame in 2010. “I can’t think of a better person to do it,” he explained. “Michael is someone I shared my career with. He was a great teammate, teacher and admirer.”
5 Hated - Robert Parish
After winning three rings with the Boston Celtics over the span of a 14-year metier in green, Robert Parish played his final NBA season in Chicago, making a two-year stop in Charlotte before.
The respected center should have been treated to a King’s welcome when he joined the Bulls in 1996, yet Jordan wasn’t very accommodating and got in Parish’s face during a training session following a bad play.
“I told him, ‘I’m not as enamored with you as these other guys. I’ve got some rings too,”’ Parish recounted in an interview. “At that point he told me, ‘I’m going to kick your ass’. I took one step closer and said, ‘No, you really aren’t’. After that he didn’t bother me.”
Parish went on to help the Bulls win a ring at the end of that season, calling time on his career when the dust settled.
4 Loved - Magic Johnson
MJ and Magic didn’t get off on the right footing, but would develop a friendship later on. As Jordan revealed, he was even branded ‘Magic Jordan’ before getting drafted into the NBA.
“I liked him when I was in high school,” he said of the former Lakers guard. “They used to call me Magic Jordan. My first car had a license plate with Magic Jordan on it. It was a 1976 Grand Prix.”
He also explained that his success on a marketing front caused a bit of friction between himself and Johnson.
“There was a little bit of envy because of the way I came into the league. Magic came in with even more flair and even more success. And he should have been even bigger than I was in terms of endorsements and business opportunities. But he wasn’t marketed that way. And I was fortunate to have good people. So there was some envy," Jordan recalled.
“During my third year, he invited me out to play in his summer charity game. We ironed out our differences in private in the locker room and we began a relationship.”
3 Hated - Bill Cartwright
As mentioned above, Jordan was quite furious when the Bulls traded Charles Oakley to the New York Knicks to bring in Bill Cartwright. He took his frustrations out on the center, and tried to make his life as difficult as possible, going to the extent of throwing him passes which were hard to catch. After the trade, Jordan told the press: "I don't know about trading a 24-year old guy for a 34-year old guy."
Not true; Cartwright was 31 at the time.
As it turns out, though, Cartwright was exactly the player the Bulls needed to retain their dominance at the top of the league, and His Airness would hesitantly concede that the Bulls had made a correct decision by trading his pal Oakley.
2 Loved - George Koehler
George Koehler isn’t a player, coach or GM. He’s in no way associated with the sport of basketball, yet he’s still a guy you’d want to know. Koehler was simply a limo driver, who through a twist of fate met a young MJ at the Chicago O’Hare airport after he was drafted in 1984.
The Bulls weren’t polite enough to have their player picked up at the airport (little did they know), leaving him all alone in a city in which he had no friends or contacts. Koehler actually came to pick someone else up, but that person never showed up, and after stumbling on Jordan, who he thought was his brother Larry Jordan, the two struck up a conversation.
He took His Airness to his destination for just $25, also offering to show him around the city to point out the best places to live, eat and have a good time. The pair became great friends, with Jordan later making him his personal assistant.
Jordan has nothing but good things to say about George. “George was the first person I ever met in Chicago,” he recalls. “He gave me a ride and has taken me for a ride ever since.”
“I’ve met just about everyone under the sun through Michael,” George says. “If you picked up a book about Michael’s life, it would be my life, just Michael’s name on the cover. I don’t know if you believe in fate, but I obviously do. My whole life could’ve been different if my customer had showed up that day.”
1 Hated - Charles Barkley
Jordan and Charles Barkley were part of the same draft class, coming into the NBA as the 3rd and 5th picks in 1984, respectively, and developed a great friendship during the 1992 Olympics when they featured as part of the legendary ‘Dream Team’.
The pair would be on opposing teams in the 1993 NBA finals, and went out for a game of golf the day before game four of the series. According to then-Bulls assistant coach Johnny Bach, the guard bought Barkley a $20,000 diamond earring after golfing.
A perplexed Bach asked Jordan: “What did you do all that for?” and the player’s reply was: “He won’t get in my way the rest of the series, what’s $20,000 to me? Charles thinks we’re great friends. I hate that fat f***.”
Things went according to plan in Game 4. MJ scored 55 points on the Suns, with Barkley offering little resistance all game.
In recent times, though, they’ve gotten estranged as a result of Barkley criticizing Jordan’s management of his Charlotte team.